Lewis Hamilton celebrates after winning the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. (Photo:@MercedesAMGF1/Twitter.)

There was no shortage of action in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton winning to set the stage for one of the most highly anticipated finishes to an F1 season ever.

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen now sit level on points ahead of the final race of the year in Abu Dhabi after a drama filled inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Hamilton, who started the race in pole position, was ultimately able to take out the race and also get the fastest lap, awarded eight points more than rival Verstappen and tying the two on 369.5 points in the Driver Standings.

The race began without too much controversy with the top three remaining unchanged after the opening lap. This remained like this until a safety car was deployed on lap 10 after Mick Schumacher lost control of his car and went flying into the wall.

Mercedes took the gamble and pitted both Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas under the safety car, while Verstappen remained out on the track and therefore went into first place. This could not have worked out any better for Red Bull with on lap 14 the race being red flagged as the barrier needed fixing which allowed Verstappen to be able to change his tyres and remain in first.

When racing got back underway it was Hamilton who was able to get the better start, getting ahead of Verstappen who went off track on turn two and re-entered back in front of Hamilton. Esteban Ocon benefitted from the tussle between the two race leaders and was able to get from fourth to second and ahead of Hamilton.

Drama struck again when another red flag was called after a melee forced a number of drivers out of the race with Charles Leclerc hitting the back of Sergio Perez and spinning him into the wall. Nikita Mazepin and George Russell were also forced out of the race with Mazepin running into the back of Russell.

The loss of Perez from the race was a huge blow for Red Bull who desperately needed all the points they could get in their hunt for the Constructors Championship title.

When the race restarted for the second time, the FIA told Verstappen that he had to give the place back to Hamilton for going off the track on the first race restart which meant he started in third, Hamilton in second and Ocon in first when racing got back underway.

In hindsight this made little difference as Verstappen was able to get back into first place after the restart, breaking late and taking the inside line to get ahead of Hamilton and then a few turns later ahead of Ocon. Hamilton was able to get back ahead of Ocon soon after putting the two rivals in first and second with just over 30 laps to go.

While there were no more safety cars or red flags for the remainder of the race, there were multiple virtual safety cars with several drivers clipping the wall, leaving debris on the track. During the virtual safety car, drivers must reduce their speed by 40 per cent.

With little action for almost the next 20 laps after such an action-packed start, the excitement built again on lap 37 with Hamilton making a move on Verstappen and the two almost colliding with Verstappen yet again holding the lead by going wide off the track.

The following lap more drama ensued with Verstappen ordered to give the place back to Hamilton and therefore slowing down to do so, however Hamilton was unaware and ended up colliding into the back on Verstappen’s Red Bull, damaging his front wing.

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Verstappen remained in the lead but shortly found out he was given a five second penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage from earlier.

With the FIA looking at the incident between Verstappen and Hamilton, they ultimately concluded that Verstappen needed to give the place back to Hamilton again and lap 42 he did so. In a veteran move, Verstappen allowed Hamilton past shortly but then quickly shot back forward and got back in front of him to hold pole position.

This was short lived however with Hamilton able to use the DRS on the home straight and get past Verstappen on lap 43 where he remained to win the Grand Prix.

In more good news for Mercedes, Bottas on the final straight was able to sneak past Ocon to secure two podium finishes for Mercedes and give them a 28 point lead in the Constructor’s Championship.

Post-race Hamilton spoke about how challenging the race was.

“I’ve been racing a long time, but that was incredibly tough. I tried to be as tough and as sensible as I could out there, with all my experience over the years. It was difficult, but we persevered as a team,” he said.

After 22 races this season it will all come down to the 23rd and final race in Abu Dhabi next weekend to determine if Hamilton will win his record-breaking eighth championship or if Verstappen will earn his first crown.  

Ricciardo back into the points

After a difficult November where Daniel Ricciardo was unable to earn any points, the Aussie returned to form in Jeddah coming from 11th place to finish in fifth.

From the opening lap, Ricciardo looked like a man on a mission able to quickly get himself into the points, jumping two spots into ninth place.

Soon after he cruised past Pierre Gasly and then made the intelligent decision to not pit when the first safety car came out which was the deciding factor in why he was able to finish so high. Because of this Ricciardo was able to get into fifth place and then afforded a free pit stop when the red flag was waved.

On the first race restart, Ricciardo had another fantastic start, able to move up to fourth place after getting past Bottas. From there he remained in fourth for a large portion of the race before Bottas was finally able to get ahead of him after laps of battling, with Ricciardo finishing in fifth place.

The result was much needed for McLaren who find themselves fourth in the Constructors Championship behind Ferrari after such a strong start to the season.

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